Technical SEO for Beginners: What it is and Why it Matters
June 25, 2021
In a previous blog post, we introduced the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) for your social media strategy. But really, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to SEO. In fact, there are different types of SEO. In this blog, we'll discuss one type that's important in the success of your website performance and traffic: technical SEO.
Let's get into it! We're going to keep this simple and start with some of the basics.
Wait, What is Technical SEO?
Technical SEO refers to the steps you take to improve the technical elements of your website, in order to rank higher in search engines. The cornerstones of technical SEO are making the website run faster, easier to crawl, and simpler for the search engines to understand and rank.
The fundamentals seem simple enough, but there's a lot that happens behind the scenes when it comes to technical SEO. First, we need to understand the importance and benefits of improving the technical SEO of your website.
Technical SEO: Why it Matters and How it Benefits You
Prioritizing technical SEO is really important since search engines like Google want to prominently display only websites that run like well-oiled machines. It's vital that your website can appeal to search engines to rank it higher, and thus, achieve a greater number of web visits and conversions.
Search engine crawlers (like Google robots) evaluate web pages based on several factors. Some are based on user experience, which includes how fast your site loads. Other factors are busy helping the search engine robots understand what your website is all about. This is why structured data, high-quality content, and strong technical foundations are important. By improving the technical foundations, you are a step ahead in helping the search engines find, crawl, and understand your website. If executed properly, you might be rewarded with higher rankings and richer web results.
To start learning the basics of technical SEO, here are a few terms that you need to understand to start developing the technical foundations of your website.
Crawler/bot: “Crawlers” or “bots” comb through the pages of your website by examining if from link to link. In this way, search engines understand what pages on each website should be included in search results.
Indexing: The process where Google stores the webpages that are shown to the users.
Sitemap: An XML file (e.g., sitemap.xml) that contains all of the URLs of your website. It allows for a quicker indexing of these pages and helps search engine bots easily crawl your website.
Robots.txt: A text file located in the root directory of your site. It creates the rules which tell search engines how to crawl your site and which pages should be included in search results. You can choose which pages of your website that you want to be shown to specific users by creating the rules in your robots.txt. This will tell the search engines to exclude certain pages from search results.
404 error: Displays when a page has not been found. It refers to a “dead page” on your website. Dead pages are bad for user experience and should be dealt with by using 301 redirects.
301 redirect: This tells search engines to focus on the new destination URL, rather than the old one. 301 redirects are effective when dealing with 404 errors, as they give you the ability to permanently redirect the dead page to a live one.
Secure Socket Layer (SSL): An SSL certificate ensures that your website is secured and safe to use. You can tell if a website has it by looking for “https” in the URL. An SSL certificate is vital for websites that accept online payments such as debit cards, credit cards, and other digital forms of transactions.
Site speed: A website’s site speed and loading time are important for both user experience and search engines. If your website has a slow loading speed, not only is it annoying for your users, but it'll negatively affect your search engine rankings.
Anchor text: The text that you click on that links to another page. The anchor text you use can add relevance and give "SEO juice" to that internal or external link.
HTML tags: HTML tags such as H2, H3, and <div> are used to specify your text on the webpages according to their importance and function. These tags can break your pages into subsections and change the formatting/appearance, which can help search engines understand the flow of your webpages.
ALT text: Since search engines can’t read images, the alt text is a piece of text used to describe the images uploaded on your website. The alt text explains to search engines what your image is depicting. You'll find the space to enter this in your CMS. Having photos with updated ALT text is also important for ADA compliance.
Canonicalization: When there are multiple versions of a webpage, Google will select one to show in their search results based on where you use a canonical URL.
While we've only scratched the surface, this blog has provided you with a basic introduction to technical SEO. We know it might be a lot to take in. These are just some of the terms and concepts a website owner must understand before launching a website (or while maintaining it). If you don't have the time, the field of SEO is best left to the pros. If you'd like additional help, contact LSM today to book a free consultation with our team of experts.